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Conrad Black

Conrad Moffat Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour (born August 25, 1944 in Montreal, Quebec) is a Canadian-born British biographer, financier and newspaper magnate. He is the latest in a series of Canadian-born British press lords--his predecessors were Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, and Roy Thomson, 1st Baron Thomson of Fleet. Black is married to Barbara Amiel, a well-known right-wing columnist.

Through his Ravelston Corporation he has a 82% share-holding in the Toronto-based Hollinger Inc. group which, through Hollinger International, owns or controls several newspapers, notably in the United States, including the Chicago Sun-Times (1994). He also holds a minority interest in the New York Sun (2002). Hollinger once owned a large number of Canadian newspapers, accounting for a plurality of that country's daily newspaper circulation, and acquired and relaunched the Financial Post as the National Post (1998), in large part to get a foothold in the competitive Toronto newspaper market. In 2004 his Telegraph Group in the United Kingdom was sold to David and Frederick Barclay.


Early life and career

Black was born into a wealthy Toronto family. His father, George Montegu Black, Jr., was the president of Canadian Breweries, an international brewing conglomerate. Conrad Black was first educated at Upper Canada College from which he was expelled for selling stolen exams. He continued his education at Carleton University (History, 1965) and Laval University (Law, 1970), later completing a Master's degree (MA) at McGill University. He became involved in a number of businesses mainly newspapers but including mining and publishing. His family founded the Ravelston Corporation in 1969 as an investment vehicle. Together with friends, David Radler and Peter G. White , Black purchased and operated the Sherbrooke Record a small Sherbrooke, Quebec newspaper. In 1971, the three formed "Sterling Newspapers Limited", a holding company that would acquire several other small newspapers.

Conrad Black was taken under the wing of Bud McDougald and E. P. Taylor, two of the most powerful businessmen in Canada. Following the death of McDougald, in 1978 Conrad Black acquired the shares owned by McDougald's widow in Argus Corporation, a mammoth Canadian holding company, whose holdings at the time Black took it over included some of Canada's finest blue-chip companies such as Dominion Stores , Canada's largest supermarket chain, Massey Ferguson, Canada's large multi-national farm machinery corporation, Hollinger Mines , an important gold-mining company in Timmins, Ontario, and Norcen Energy , an energy and pipeline operation. His record in managing these operations is deemed by most financial experts as less than successful.

Becoming a British Press Lord

In 1985, Black first entered the UK newspaper business, buying into the Telegraph group. By 1990 his companies ran over 400 newspaper titles in North America. Many of these were disposed of towards the end of the 1990s with around 150 titles being sold in a single deal with CanWest Global Communications Corp. He launched the National Post in 1998 but sold his interest in 2001. He gave up the majority of his remaining Canadian media interests in 2001.

Black gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a British life peer because of Canada's Nickle Resolution, that called on the monarch (King or Queen) to desist from granting aristocratic titles in Canada. Black had attempted to evade the resolution by taking dual British and Canadian citizenship and seeking the peerage as a Briton, and he unsuccessfully sued the Canadian government in 2001 when this tactic failed. Black, who is considered to be fairly right-wing (especially by Canadian standards), has sparred several times in public with former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who is much further left on the political spectrum and who subsequently instructed the Queen to withhold the peerage as long as Black held Canadian citizenship. Despite divesting himself of his citizenship, Black continued to enjoy the privileges of being a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada such as use of a special passport.

Controversies surrounding Black

Black has made several controversial statements, including the suggestions that Canada should join the United States and abandon its universal publicly funded health care system or medicare. Ironically, Lord Black's scholarly work on Franklin Delano Roosevelt (published in November 2003) clearly shows him as a strong supporter of Roosevelt's liberal New Deal. The Roosevelt biography was met with positive reviews; it came some thirty years after his biography of Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis, widely considered the definitive work on the man, and written when Black was in his twenties.

On November 17, 2003 it was announced that Black would be resigning as chief executive of Hollinger after an internal inquiry alleged that he had received over $7 million in unauthorized payments of company funds. The United States SEC has launched an investigation of his company's affairs. On January 17, 2004 Hollinger International reported that the executive committee of the board of directors obtained Black's resignation as chairman. At the same time the special committee in Hollinger already investigating the unauthorised payments filed a lawsuit in New York for the recovery of the money. Hollinger International also announced filed a USD 200 million lawsuit against Lord Black and his former top lieutenant David Radler as well as the companies Black has used to control the publishing it.

On November 15, 2004, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil fraud lawsuits against Lord Black and several others. (BBC)

Earlier, in the 1980s, Black appropriated over $62 million from the Dominion workers' pension fund over the opposition of his employees before divesting himself of the grocery store chain.

As Black has often been a controversial figure in Canadian life, he has been mercilessly lampooned by the Toronto humour magazine Frank as "Lord Tubby".


  • Guardian Unlimited Special Report - Conrad Black, Hollinger and the Telegraph Ongoing archive collection of news and analysis.
  • U.S. SEC - Breeden Report
    Complete 512-page copy of the Report of Investigation by the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of Hollinger International Inc.
  • Black fired, faces $200M lawsuit
    In 2004 Black faced a number of law suits from investors and others claiming highly inappropriate financial dealings as well as audit fraud concerning circulation at his papers.
  • Devin Leonard. "Black & Blue: Shareholders are beating up Hollinger CEO Conrad Black over his huge, tricky pay packages. He calls them 'governance terrorists'." Fortune. September 29, 2003.

External links

  • LookSmart - Conrad Black
    directory category

Last updated: 02-08-2005 12:13:06
Last updated: 02-25-2005 01:04:06